New report reveals a Garda force in crisis

Garda Inspectorate report highlights lack of resources, bad practices and poor management

 

Publishing the results of its two-year examination of the Garda’s investigation of crime, the Garda Inspectorate was quick to point out that its work was not an investigation that sought to find wrongdoing or corruption.

Instead its objective was to examine the Garda’s approach to how crime was examined with a view to identifying shortcomings and recommend reforms.

However, the near 500-page report paints a picture of a police force in crisis, hampered by a lack of resources and a heavy workload. Those difficult conditions are compounded by some unhealthy practices, incompetence and poor management.

Crime Prevention

There was no published policy for preventing crime.

Community gardaí proved very effective yet numbers had reduced in all divisions, and in some areas there were no community officers.

Antisocial behaviour legislation was being under-utilised. There was little evidence that the most serious orders banning repeat offenders from particular locations were being applied for by the Garda via the courts.

Victims

The force’s performance in keeping victims informed with progress in investigations was especially poor. Letters that should be sent out to keep all victims up to date with progress in their cases were dispatched in just 42 per cent of cases .

Divisional policing

It was clear many did not want to be in their new posts, and the gardaí they were managing became aware of this very quickly.

The inspectorate said these officers were known as “travelling superintendents”. It suggested that because they believed they would not be in their posts very long, and in most cases expected to return to Dublin, there was a lack of any real engagement with their work.

This is a key finding because it mirrors what the Morris tribunal found when it examined corruption in the Donegal Division; newly-promoted officers assigned to the division not engaged because they believed they would be moving on soon and corruption never tackled as a result.

Resource deployment

There was limited progress on the civilianisation process of non-frontline duties.

In some places, such as the Kildare division, there was no community policing. Yet in others 19 per cent of gardaí were assigned to it.

There were huge variations in the level of personnel committed to different types of policing across the country.

There was a chronic lack of vehicles, impacting everything from response times to 999 calls to high-visibility patrols and the investigation of crime.

The move from a mostly Monday to Friday roster period for detectives to six days on, followed by four days off, was not meeting the force’s needs.

First response

When CAD systems are used a picture emerges over time of where and when resources are needed and what parts of a police force are busiest or least active; vital data on which the planning of other forces is based.

The Garda had sought funding for a CAD system but it was not successful. As a result, records of 999 calls and Garda responses were being maintained in an ad hoc manner, on paper, in the many non-CAD areas. Vital information from witness or victim callers was often not logged.

The inspectorate found 999 calls were not graded in a way that would prioritise the speed and level of response needed.

Domestic violence

In some places only 63 per cent of calls resulted in the creation of a Pulse data record and in 43 per cent of cases calls were not categorised as crimes.

In many cases when people with injuries who had clearly been subjected to assaults were not willing to make a statement, the case was not recorded as a crime.

When victims had consumed alcohol they were often told by gardaí to take time to consider their next course of action. If they did not make a statement the attack on them was not recorded as a crime.

When tourists complained of being victims of crime those offences were often not recorded because gardaí believed the victim would take no follow-up actions.

When minor offences occurred they were often not recorded as crimes to avoid the commencement of a formal investigation.

Incident recording

Frequently incidents were not recorded on the Garda’s Pulse database for between two and six months after a crime.

For some feud-related incidents, initial offences were not recorded until subsequent related crimes were committed.

Only 2 per cent of burglaries were recorded on Pulse on the day they occurred, with the average for all crime types just 14 per cent.

In up to 67 per cent of cases, crimes were not classified correctly and in some crime categories inadequate information to determine the accuracy of the classification was a feature in 42 per cent of records.

Assaults that resulted in broken fingers or teeth were often recorded as minor rather than assaults that caused harm.

Some 28 per cent of criminal damage cases were incorrectly classified.

In some cases when robberies occurred involving the use of force against a person, they were classified as “theft from the person”, such as pick-pocketing.

Some categories of burglaries were grossly misclassified. For example, a thief using a fishing rod or broom handle to push through a letterbox for the purposes of taking handbags, car keys and other items should be classified as burglaries. But some 97 per cent were classified as something more minor.

Crime management

Burglaries accounted for 39 per cent of all reclassified crime. And in 98 per cent of burglaries reclassified, the crime was downgraded.

These trends were captured in a study of data from January 2011 to May 2012; a time when there was significant political pressure on senior Garda management to reduce burglary rates which were increasing as all types of recorded crime was falling.

In another case a sexual assault was reclassified as a non-crime, a smash and grab on a vehicle in which a window was broken and a handbag taken was reclassified as lost property.

The inspectorate found that any garda having the power to reclassify a crime without informing any third party and without the need to state a reason was out of step with international policing practices.

Investigating crime

Across the State between 94 and 96 per cent of crime was regarded as less serious, with serious offences accounting for between 4 and 6 per cent of all crime committed.

In Ireland the workload of detectives varied massively; from nine investigations per detective per year in one district to 55 crimes per year per detective in other districts.

There were 2,200 detectives in the 13,000-strong force, some 700 of whom had had no formal detective training. Others had worked up to 10 years without training. The majority of the 5,000 gardaí who had joined the force since 2005 had never received training in how to conduct an interview.